The Technique

Evaluative Relighting is fundamentally the same technique used by professional portrait photographers in the studio. Using artificial strobe lighting to control illumination and exposure, I place two of three portable lights in side-lighting positions and the third in standard fill position. This arrangement isolates and highlights textural and topographic features in the rock surface. Unlike portrait photgraphy, though, I use color filters on the lights enhancing and separating features like cracks, edges, voids, and of course, etchings, which are the petroglyphs. And unlike studio photography, I do all of this outdoors in full daylight. Therefore, I include portable shading equipment in my pack. This is how I relight the rock and control the exposure entirely with my lights.

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This is all accomplished by hauling over 100 pounds of photography equipment down into canyons and up mountainsides. Hiking, backpacking, and camping have always been a part of my lifestyle and a joyous endeavor. So now I have turned my vacations into a vocation.

Once on site, it usually takes a couple of hours just to get one photograph. Using three portable strobe lights and a medium format camera, we often have to hang lights from cliff walls or balance tripods precariously on boulders, always being careful to protect the surrounding environment. Over and over, we reposition the lights and camera in order to achieve controlled lighting and acceptable composition, testing each setup with Polaroid film before committing the final shot to negative film.

Yes, itís not just photography Ė itís an adventure.

(Photo by Ron Spees.)

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